LAST SUMMER IN THE CITY
by Gianfranco Calligarich
translated by Howard Curtis
Leo Gazzara, the narrator of Gianfranco Calligarich’s scintillating novel Last Summer in the City—an Italian cult classic masterfully translated for the first time into English by the pro Howard Curtis—might be described as a Latin Holden Caulfield all grown up.
In the opening pages, Leo, cynical and despairing, turns 30, which means, of course, that life is over. The book is set in the height of summer in Rome in the early 1970s, and Leo, a writer who skipped the aspiring stage to embrace his inevitable failure, restlessly roams the sun-scorched city in his old Alfa Romeo.
The promotional materials for the novel, in fact, boldly compare Last Summer in the City, first published in 1973, to The Catcher in the Rye and The Great Gatsby. In his rich introduction, author André Aciman (Call Me by Your Name) identifies Leo’s cinematic doppelgängers in Marcello of Fellini’s La Dolce Vita and Jep of Sorrentino’s La Grande Bellezza.
I might throw into the mix Michel from Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless, Paul from Godard’s Contempt, and Joe from Roman Holiday. The novel is indeed very visual, and it is no surprise that Calligarich, now 74, is a screenwriter too.